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3 minute read

2020: will this be the decade of true progress in worldwide environmental issues? It needs to be, if we are to continue to enjoy our ‘wonderful world’.

We postponed our family Christmas celebrations this year until Boxing day due to family work schedules. So took the opportunity, on what must have been one of the sunniest winter days of 2019, to have a wonderful, long – and very muddy walk. Revelling in the myriad of gifts that nature has given, all around us.

Knepp Estate

Having learnt a lot about ‘Rewilding’ our local 3,500 estate at Knepp was the perfect destination. A remarkable project, on our doorstep – and a stunning natural mix of habitats. Home to a variety of ‘free roaming herbivores’ including majestic Red Deer, magnificent Long Horn cattle, enormously tubby Tamworth pigs and shaggy Exmoor ponies. Free willed as well as free roaming, we tried to stick to the footpaths as requested, but did have to make a very small diversion as a huge stag clearly was not going to move from one pathway, and you don’t argue with an 8′ + stag! Similarly, a family of Longhorns took some time before moving to the side of the path so we could drive off the estate – I finally worked up the courage to pass them, fully aware that one of their fine horns could scrape a deep trench all the way along our new car … but all was well.

Just 20 minutes away, it is certainly worth a visit – but take your wellies! Click here for an online map of public footpaths & bridleways crossing the stunning estate.

After 4 hours of rambling, we drove the 20 minutes back to The Oaks for a very late Christmas Day lunch – as simple and ‘back to nature’ as the day had been. Time for feasting on Boxing Day. Christmas 2019 was about celebrating nature, and how lucky we are to live surrounded by it.

Sunset on Christmas Day

‘Red Sky at Night’bodes well for the future πŸ™‚ . Let’s hope it can be a kinder life for us all.

Let’s hope the 20s see real progress towards a kinder life for all, and understanding of the importance of appreciating our finely balanced natural environment. Rewilding parts of the british countryside is one interesting step – more details here, & elsewhere on the web… well worth thinking about!

More Harvest: 2019

4 minute read

Do not measure success by today’s harvest. Measure success by the seeds you plant today’. Robert Lewis Stevenson

Anti-oxidants galore

We have a vine winding its way across the front of the main house – producing small black grapes. I intended to make jelly, but decided on a high antioxidant drink instead, and made copious quantities of grape juice., with the help of my trusty Vitamix. Some for the freezer, and lots just for drinking – to keep the colds away as Winter approaches πŸ™‚

‘Gardener’s Delight’, ‘Sun Baby’ (yellow) & ‘BlackCherry’

Harlequin Tomatoes

We grew tiny red, yellow and black tomatoes this year – all cropped well. I learnt that tomatoes grow better in pots that aren’t black, as the roots can overheat in the sun. Home grown toms are such a luxury; I’m savouring our last bowl of the season – as near to Sweets as I will ever get!

‘Home grown’ potpourri: Keep topped up with rose oil & it will look and smell wonderful

Home grown room fragrancer

Our wild deer and rabbits have not yet acquired a taste for roses, and this year has been a great one for repeat flowering, so I have lots of dried petals. For a seasonal touch, I’ll add cinnamon sticks and orange peel studded with cloves to the bowl at Christmas, but other than that, keeping topped up with Rose Essential Oil does the trick. Best to buy it from a shop (I’ve had a few bad internet buys of oils, which I haven’t even dared pour down the sink for fear of upsetting the bugs in our bio-digester…!)

All Kale & lettuce is rabbit proofed in the kitchen garden opposite the Annexe!

We still have aubergines, chillis, cut & come again lettuce and herbs, (other than basil, which has finished for the season) to harvest. Curly Kale is one of my favourite vegetables, and full of vitamins, fibre, and even protein – I’ve planted young plants and look forward to harvesting later in the Autumn, and through the winter months: delicious!

Horsham Events: Americarna 2019!

Miles and Miles of Smiles πŸ™‚

Even for me – who’s not really a car enthusiast!

The combination of a huge array of well loved, pampered brightly coloured cars in all shapes and sizes (with doting owners to match!), ‘Elvis’ and his chicks playing in the bandstand, busy market stalls and people enjoying a sunday afternoon on the cobbled streets of Horsham – browsing, sitting at cafes or watching the bandstand show, couldn’t fail to bring a huge smile to anyone’s face.

And all in aid of St Catherine’s Hospice. A local, and very well supported hospice; many events are organised throughout the year to raise funds, and this weekend’s Americarna was an example of how well supported, imaginative, and meticulously organised those events are.

Horsham’s Americarna 2019

Apparently around 400 cars, vintage bikes and other vehicles were expected for this year’s event – the third to be held; each year’s seems to get bigger and better. As so often the case with Horsham events, the whole day was enriched with bands playing in the bandstand throughout the day – their music being piped all over the central Horsham area, to everyone’s delight. The finale was a stream of vintage American Police Cars skirting the ring road, sirens and lights blazing – a wonderful sight, and again, one that could not fail to bring a smile, even on what was, underneath all the fun, a drizzly grey Sunday πŸ™‚

If you’ve been to Cuba, you may, like me, get a feeling of Deja Vu… Havana in Horsham (just ignore the weather!)

Horsham’s market stalls – always relied upon for great locally produced alcoholic drinks, and yummy bakes
The Oaks
West Sussex accommodation

Hello Autumn!

Today is officially the first day of Autumn. Having spent the weekend raking crispy red maple leaves and ornamental pears, I thought that Autumn had arrived!

So it is also the time for preserving nature’s gifts – particularly, in our case, our glut of rhubarb (rhubarb being one of the easiest ‘rabbit proof’ plants…)

I never harvest all the rhubarb stalks from our plants; always leaving a very good quantity to die back, returning the nutrients in the thick pink stalks and vast leaves to the roots to support next year’s healthy growth.

I started with the obligatory Apple and Rhubarb chutney. We eat gallons of it, ringing the changes with different spices or partners in each batch, working from a basic recipe – each year I get more confident with variations, but in a chutney you can’t really go far wrong with spices (dried, as well as fresh ginger and home grown chilli), vegetables, fresh and dried fruit. See a basic Apple & Rhubarb recipe here (I chopped the whole, unpeeled oranges up and included, rather than just adding juice): https://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/entertain/rhubarb-and-apple-chutney/

Next, more rhubarb chutney whilst also starting on Jam; Apple (of course!) and Strawberry, Apple & Raspberry, then Apple & Blackberry – tiny wild berries picked from the hedgerow edging the field. The basic rule for jam is equal quantities of fruit and preserving sugar – here is a recipe that’s good for adapting! https://www.fabfood4all.co.uk/easy-blackberry-apple-jam/

Finally, Crab apple jelly. Again, different batches ringing different accents in the beautiful jelly which my mother had patiently strained overnight πŸ™‚

We will enjoy sharing our autumn bounty in the year to come, at the table and as gifts for friends. I have a sack or two of apples left, so think that this week there will be more experimentation with flavours in the kitchen, and more wonderful Autumn preserving aromas wafting through the house!

‘Autumn – the season of mists & mellow fruitfulness’ – John Keats

Tea Time Treasure

As a volunteer ‘host’ for Contact the Elderly, we have the total pleasure of offering occasional tea parties for local elderly people. It is such a pleasure and privilege – guests come with their volunteer ‘drivers’, and both hosts and guests get to know each other and look forward to catching up with news and conversation.

In their own words:

‘Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people through face to face contact.
Supported by a network of volunteers, the charity organises free monthly Sunday gatherings for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over who live alone. Offering a regular and vital friendship link every month’.

https://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/be-our-guest

I so recommend others to get involved – follow the link and find out more about becoming a host or driver. When I enquired, Contact the Elderly already had one tea group set up in our locality. After a short wait, sufficient ‘hosts’ and ‘drivers’ had come forward, and the Horsham 2 tea group was formed!

Most of the guests in our group (and their drivers!) have lived in the area for many years – decades… So it’s so absolutely fascinating to discuss changes over time to Horsham & the surrounding villages, and hear their perspective on developments in terms of facilities, and the environment. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to just catch up with each other – a quality afternoon for all, I hope!

If you think you can join in a local Sunday Tea group, do follow the link below to find out more. I urge you to get in contact with Contact the Elderly – you won’t regret it, and nor will your local prospective guests!

https://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/be-our-guest

Lazy Sunday Jazz: Polesden Lacy

Easy Jazz enjoyed with a picnic on the lawn of a studding Edwardian mansion, surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens and grounds & views extending through fields and woods. How good can a summer afternoon get?

Just under half an hour’s drive away, a treat awaits on Sunday afternoons in June, July and August. Take your provisions, sun hat, and Enjoy!

Make time to explore the gardens and enjoy a walk with breathtaking views through the grounds too. Check out the National Trust Garden map to ensure you don’t miss the chickens, kitchen garden, flower picking plot, walled rose garden and croquet lawn, to name but a few of the beautifully manicured ‘rooms’ within the grounds.

You can’t fail to admire the skill of the gardeners, past and present…

‘The perfect setting for an Edwardian country retreat’: National Trust, Polesden Lacy. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/polesden-lacey

Banana Muffins

A perfect recipe to turn a couple of over ripe bananas into a super fast breakfast, tea time treat, or pudding – served with Vanilla yogurt or ice cream πŸ™‚

Two ripe bananas, seeds or nuts and a little time – the house will soon be full of that delicious ‘home baking’ smell πŸ™‚

Ingredients

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Β½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • eggs
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 125ml buttermilk 
  • 50g pecans, chopped, plus extra to decorate (or other nuts or seeds)
  • NB If you don’t have buttermilk, use this great trick: add 1 tsp of lemon juice to milk and leave for 20 mins – works just a well

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/gas 5.
  2. Use a butter paper to grease a silicone muffin tin, or line a 12-hole metal muffin tin with muffin sized paper cases.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar with a big pinch of salt.
  4. In a separate bowl mix the melted butter (I melt it in a little bowl in the oven whilst it’s heating up), vanilla extract, eggs, mashed bananas and buttermilk.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in.
  6. Roughly fold together with a basting spook, being careful not to over-mix. Scatter in the chopped pecans, if using, then spoon the mixture into the muffin cases.
  7. Top with pecan halves, then bake for 20-25 mins, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Banana Muffins
Banana Muffins

Simple is sustainable

Don’t count on having the energy after a long day at work to whip up an elaborate meal; pop some healthy home made ‘fast food in the freezer.

The Oaks West Sussex
Recipe originally from BBC Good Food https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/banana-muffins